I decided to write a post on “what beers to brew in the summer”, after having a debate about stouts. There seems to be two camps, when it comes to drinking stout in the summer.
Camp One – There’s a “stout season”, which seems to end around May. After May, no more stouts. These people tend to be seasonal drinkers, whose beer choices depends on weather and other environmental factors.
Camp Two – Those who drink all styles throughout the year, enjoying a stout in the height of summer.
Still, even those in camp two, often caveat their answers. Mentioning beer styles, they prefer to drink in the summer.
It was an interesting debate, talking about beer styles and preferences people had, when the weather gets hotter. Here’s a breakdown of what came up in conversations, with some of my own takeaways thrown in as well.
Please note: The BJCP guidelines shared here are taken from this PDF file.
What Beers to Brew in the Summer #1 – Gose
Gose is a style which has made a bit of a comeback in the last 5 years globally. It’s an historical style first produced in Lower Saxony, Germany in the year 1,000.
It was first brewed in Goslar, a town on the Goser River. The style found a wider audience when the small-town brewers established a larger market for their beers, in the cities of Leipzig and Halle.
A proper gose should be lightly bittered with a distinctive but restrained salt and coriander character. It’s a beer which when brewed right; is very refreshing, with a dry finish, highly carbonated and bright flavors.
“Bright flavors” will be a theme in many of the summer beers we’ll talk about here.
Gose Grain Bill
Traditionally gose is made from pilsner and wheat malt. Wheat typically made up 50% of the grain bill. Modern brewers with access to different malts, may play around with the grain bill.
The beer should be noticeably sour on tasting (medium low to medium high). The malt bill gives a moderately bready or “doughy” flavor.
Salt addition can vary, but 1g per liter is common. The salt is added in the kettle, towards the end of the boil. The salt should be present, particularly in the initial taste, but not taste overly salty.
Furthermore, the beer should be dry, with acidity, not hops balancing the malt. There may be a fruity character on the nose and taste. Which is often described as “lemony”, and often attributed to the coriander seeds, added during the boil.
In the summer, I like a more traditional gose. If you want to add some fruit to your gose, in my opinion opt for a lighter touch. Too much fruit can make a beer cloying. In the summer you want a beer to be bright and refreshing.
One last note: These beers tend be hazy, when to style.
What Beers to Brew in the Summer #2 – British Golden Summer Ale
Okay this isn’t a “real” style as such, you do have golden ales. The summer variant in my experience, should be tweaked for the hotter weather.
If we look at the guidelines for a Golden ale below; a summer version should be at the lighter end of these parameters.
One of my favorite beers in the world is Oakham JHB, which is brewed close where to I grew up in the UK.
A summer ale should be straw to gold in color, and should ideally be around 3.5 to 4.2% ABV. The hop bitterness should be medium and flavor moderate to moderately high of whatever hop variety is used.
Additionally, this style is seeing a movement towards “citrusy flavors”, as more American hops are being used, in this most British of beers. This was English brewers’ response to the heavily marketed imported lagers, popular in the mid 1980’s.
The style is supposed to be refreshing, hop-forward beer with high drinkability. Hops should lean towards floral, herbal and earthy notes.
Single Hops Versions Are Popular
With many brewers often showcasing a single hop variety, when formulating a recipe to style.
Mouthfeel will be medium to light body, with some brewers using wheat in the grain bill. The beer should have low to moderate carbonation. Bottled commercial versions, may have higher carbonation though.
Think of it being similar to an American Pale ale, but lower in ABV and using British ingredients. A summer ale should have no caramel flavors, and fewer esters than British bitter and pale ales.
One last note: Summer ales should be clear to brilliant, when to style. With British brewers typically using finings, to clear the beer.
What Beers to Brew in the Summer #3 – Witbier
A good Witbier, is like “summer in a can”. It’s not a beer I personally like, but one which I sell in massive quantities in the summer. It’s my number one seller, here in Shanghai, during the summer months.
It’s a beer first brewed back in the 14th century in Belgium. Witbier is Dutch for “white beer”. It may come “Flemish” originally, but the actually history isn’t one I could pin down for this beer.
Anyway, originally named “White beer”, probably due it’s opaque appearance, this beer style is wheat focused and typically brewed with coriander and orange peel.
Wheat can make up 60% of the grain bill. Traditionally the wheat would be un-malted.
When using a high percentage of wheat in the grain bill, some brewers use rice hulls to help improve collection of wort to the kettle.
A witbier should be moderate in strength, with high carbonation, a dry finish and be lightly hopped. The spiced added in the boil should accentuate the hop character.
These spices are typically coriander seeds and orange peel. With bitter or sweet orange peel are used, depending on the brewer’s preference.
The aroma should have a moderate bready maltiness with a zesty/citrusy/orangey fruitiness. Often with hints of spice underneath.
They aromas should all blend in to one another without one overpowering the others. The beer will be hazy in appearance, but still refreshing to drink on a summer day.
One last note: As a style this beer died out in 1957, only to be revived around 10-years later by Pierre Celis at the brewery which became Hoegaarden.
How Hoegaarden came about, is well worth a read, following the link above.
Once Hoegaarden was bought by Interbrew, witbier as a style grew quickly, as breweries saw its popularity. Witbiers today are mostly traced back to the Celis revival, rather than the beer, as it was brewed in past centuries.
What Beers to Brew in the Summer #4 – Farmhouse Ales
I’m going with a category here rather than a particular style. Saison beers are popular the world over these days. It’s a quite open-ended style, with brewers interpreting saisons their own way.
I mean look at the BJCP guidelines below, to enter beer competitions with a saison.
The style falls into three categories: table, standard and super for those with an ABV from 7 to 9.5% ABV.
For summer beers, I like to offer either a table or standard beer, which is on the paler side too, when it comes to color.
Mostly I brew what I call “farmhouse ales”. These were traditional winter or late summer beers, drank when crops were being harvested.
The distinction between saisons, farmhouse ales and biere de gardes historically, are dependent on where the beer was brewed (France or Belgium). The brews I offer in the summer months, are generally below 5% ABV.
A Summer Farmhouse Ale – Grisette
I am going to pick out one particular farmhouse style I like to brew in the summer, grisette. This style is supposed to be refreshing, low alcohol with its origins in the Hainaut region of Belgium.
For me it’s the perfect style for summer drinking; being crisp, medium/light bodied with citrusy notes. The beer should be sessionable, allowing the drinker to happily drink a glass or two.
This beer is open to interpretation, I like my grisettes to be around 4% ABV, light bodied with high carbonation (3-volumes of CO2).
There are two-ways you can go with a Grisette:
Funky – The funky variant will have a blend of yeast and bacteria and can be slightly sour, as well as funky.
Clean – The variant I prefer for summer drinking. Often using a saison yeast with less phenolic output, but still peppery notes.
This is a “more traditional” version of the style. I like to add some botanicals, when I go this route
I often take my inspiration from botanical used in modern gin making. So, utilize anything from Buddha’s hand to Juniper berries when brewing a grisette. Using Buddha’s hand, really adds some nice refreshing citrus notes.
The beer is usually blonde in color and I’ll add some wheat or oats into the grain bill. The beer will be high attenuating so, dry in the finish. I go to around 25 IBU’s personally, adding the botanicals in the FV, much like a dry hop.
To learn more about the origins of grisette please see click this link, where there are some recipes suggestions to get your started too.
What Beers to Brew in the Summer #5 – Session Hazy IPA
For this beer style, I’m going to hand over the reign to my good friends Sean and Daniel Brady. They’re Scottish brothers who run the hazy brand Fluffy Monsters (Instagram link), out of Shanghai.
They’ve a cracking hazy session IPA called “ RELAX!!!“ so, it makes sense for them to explain this one…
Over to You Daniel (The Brewer)
So, Session NEIPAs or Session Hazy’s aren’t exactly a style, more of a substyle, like the more popular Triple or Imperial NE.
Since a regular NEIPA following most common guidelines should be greater than 6%, it would be assumed anything below that would be counted as a session.
However most commercial examples seen are between 3.5% and 5%. A bitterness range of 20-40 IBUs, relative to attenuation, ABV and target market are usually advised.
Other characteristics follow the general style guidelines; fruit-forward hop aromas, very low perceived bitterness and soft, almost silky mouthfeel on a very light bready malt backbone.
The Trick to Brewing a Session Hazy
The challenge with these beers is achieving that low ABV without the tradeoff in body, which would leave you with a watery hop juice.
To reach this goal, Daniel (pictured right) has a few strategies that can be used or combined, with the end goal of brewing something in the 4% alcohol range. Which, while being easier drinking than a regular NE, delivers the same thick, juicy flavors.
Mashing in at the high end of 68C-69C is an obvious choice for higher finishing gravities, as is the addition of lactose, though both these methods can come with their own drawbacks,
For example, lactose intolerance and increasing perceived sweetness. Furthermore, a third option is to take the proportions of flaked oats and wheat usually found in an NE and increasing their percentages relative to the base malt.
-> The use of torrefied oats and rice hulls are an effective countermeasure to wort filtration issues.
One last note on the style is, that, unlike many NEIPAs, this can be a really cost-effective brew when done right.
Small or no bittering charges during boil, concentrated and liquid hop products on both hot and cold side can drastically cut waste, whilst the lower hop loads and low-gravity of the beer can make it great for harvesting yeast.
The Brand Specialist View On Hazies (Sean Brady- Pictured Below)
Considering the fact that Hazy IPAs usually present like drinking a Capri-Sun/Sunny Delight.
As all those dry hop additions contribute notes of fresh orange juice, vanilla, and tropical fruits extending all the way to coconut, (here’s looking at you Sabro).
They’d seem to be an obvious choice for a summer drinker. Problem is most of these hazies are coming in at 6%+ ABV, and it doesn’t matter if you think you are fine after 4 glasses.
Because in the hot, hot summer heat, chances are you aren’t. You’re starting to harass people, be loud and obnoxious then fall asleep.
Enter the Session Hazy IPA: With 3-4% ABV, and as much fruity hop aroma as your little lupulin filled heart could desire.
The only danger here is the lack of body, which can be remedied by increasing the percentage of oats and wheat within the malt bill.
What Beers to Brew in the Summer #6 – Helles
There are several lagers you could brew for the summer months. However, I’m going to highlight one of my favorites, Helles.
Helles comes under “kellerbier” in the BJCP guidelines along with Dunkel and Marzen. As Helles has gained more international recognition, the style has been opened up somewhat, for a wider interpretation of the style.
Dry-hopping beer isn’t really associated with traditional German brewing, but a modern helles can sometimes utilize this technique, for a more robust hop character.
Yeast selection is important with a helles, with many brewers wanting to add some bready notes, from the chosen yeast characteristics.
A traditional kellerbier is unfiltered, unpasteurized, but fully attenuated lager beer. It’s what Pilsner Urquell would call “tank beer”.
The Helles beer I like to brew, is a modern interpretation of the style.
Brewing A Helles for the Summer
I’m looking for a clean fully attenuated lager, which with some bready notes. Unlike the pilsner which I filter to make brite. The helles I make, is packaged directly off the FV or maturation tank, into keg.
This is a beer, I like to serve close to home, be it in a brewpub or venues close the brewery. It’s not exactly tanker beer, but as close as I can get to “kellerbier”.
My modern interpretation of the helles would use some of the new wave German hops like Ariana. The daughter of Herkules hops, and a wild male high yield variety.
New Wave German Hops
The flavor key for the Ariana hop is: sweet fruit, citrus, berry/currant and floral. Is this true to the Helles style? Maybe not. However, it’s a beer I like to have fun with.
In dry hop additions at around 5 grams per liter, I get some subtle tropical fruit notes. In a full attenuated lager, it can really add to the drinkability of the beer, adding some pop to the aroma.
Whether you dry hops or not, it’s up to the individual brewer, and the market you are brewing for.
When brewed, the lager is matured, say for around 21 days. Maturation allows the beer to clear somewhat, as to be hazy rather than murky.
What I’m looking for is a pale lager which is hazy, with a subtle hop aroma. A beer I hope, a drinkers first glass will be polished off quickly.
With the second glass to be enjoyed at leisure. Allowing the drinker to appreciate the subtleties of this classic brew, with a modern twist.
What Beers to Brew in the Summer #7 – Kölsch
This list wouldn’t be complete without adding Kölsch to it. It’s a beautifully subtle beer, which for all its simplicity is hard to brew right. It’s all in the balance.
The beer should be brilliantly clear, pale in color with a gentle balance of malt, fruit and hop character. Like many of the beers on this list, should be well-attenuated with moderate bitterness and a soft finish.
Another style which has seen the interpretation of style open up, Kölsch may have a subtle fruity aroma. Think apple, pear of maybe cherry, however this is optional.
Other aroma notes associated with the style are “floral, herbal or spicy”. As we’ve stated before hop aroma should be subtle but balanced.
The flavors should be balanced without any note being overpowering. The beer should be clean with a soft dry finish. There’ll be a little bit of maltiness, even some bread or honey notes.
Brewing a Kölsch
It’s a hard beer to define, think of it as blurring of the lines between a crisp lager and a fruity blonde ale. The choice of yeast is important when brewing this beer.
The light fruity esters sometime associated with this style comes from using a top-fermenting German ale yeast. Ferment the beer at the lower temperature end of the chosen yeast, around 16°C (60°F).
This will help mitigate ester production. Additionally, you can free rise the fermentation towards the end, to ensure the beer fully attenuates out. Still, the fermentation will be longer than normal ales typically ferment.
A longer ferment allows for a crisp, clean profile and dry finish. Similar to brewing lagers, after primary fermentation, extended cold conditioning helps smooth a Kölsch out. Increasing its “crispness”
I like to cold crash this beer in stages for example, 2-days at 10°C followed by 2-days at 5°C before taking the beer to terminal temp. I find it help with clearing the beer too, especially when using dry yeasts.
Some brewers like to add a percentage (up to 5%) of wheat malt to the grain bill. This isn’t strictly true to style, but can add a “bready” note and aid head retention. I use a pilsner malt, to get the light grainy taste, which guidelines suggest.
Some brewers add up to 5% Vienna or Light Munich to the grain bill. This helps add a bit of color and malt complexity. Please bear in mind, the color should be between 3.5 to 5 SRM for a Kölsch.
Guidelines state IBU should be between 18 and 30. Kölsch isn’t a hop forward beer, with some brewers only adding one hop addition for bittering, when brewing this beer.
For this beer think, noble German hops. Hops like Hallertau, Tettnang, Spalt or Hersbrucker. The American version of German hops can be used too. Plus, check out this interesting presentation.
Kölsch is a subtle beer so, treat it gently. For example, go easy when transferring. It’s susceptible to oxidization and poor fermentation practices. However, brew it right and the hard work will be worth it.
What Beers to Brew in the Summer – Conclusions
I hope you enjoyed our guide “what beer to brew in the summer”. I know brewers out there will have other recommendations. With so many styles to choose from, sure there are other options.
The suggestions here are some of my personal favorites plus, ideas from other brewers. Speaking of other brewers, thanks to Daniel and Sean for their insights on brewing a session hazy.
Brewing is all about interpretation, many brewers say sticking to style guidelines is limiting.
I agree however, brewing some of our recommendations here to style, will make for a truly refreshing beer. Which drinkers will appreciate, as the weather heats up in the summer.
As ever, I’m open to comments, suggestions and feedback. So, feel free to comment below, or send me a message. I’m always happy to talk beer.
Thanks for reading and have a great day.
Great job, Neil! I love all your suggestions, but I’d like to add seasonal fruit infused blonde ales. China has such an interesting collection of fruits to choose from and a light ale allows those fruits to shine.
Hey David, thanks for taking the time to comment. Always appreciate your feedback. Thanks for the suggestions on fruited Blonde ales, it’s great whenever you can use local ingredients. Cheers and happy brewing!